Made for TV: Marvel Anime – Iron Man (2011)

Recently, Marvel has begun releasing shows featuring their famous superheroes and superhero teams done in the Japanese aesthetic, like the Marvel Manga series from years back, now we have Marvel Anime. Yesterday I discussed the anime style X-MEN series, and today we’re going to take a look at IRON MAN.

Tony Stark wants to put his years of making weapons for the military behind him so he decides to retire from the hero business to attempt to provide free unlimited energy to the world. To do this he creates what he calls an ‘Arc Station’ in Japan, while heading over there to oversee its operation.  Stark also reveals that he’s going to mass produce his Iron Man suit, no reason given, but doesn’t that make his first endeavor moot?

All is going his way until he decides to pilot the new Iron Man Dio prototype in a public celebration only a man with the kind of money Stark has can throw. This is the first sign of bad things to come. While showing off in the sky his suit malfunctions and plummets him straight into the ground. Things go from bad to worse when the men that he is training to pilot the suit and take his place as Iron Man are “attacked”. A hacker compromises the mech, killing the pilot inside, and turning Dio on the remaining two, blasting them into oblivion with its repulsor rays. Once it escapes the lab, Stark must don his Iron Man suit to stop it. And he does, but is attacked by a mechanoid beast that calls itself, Scorpio, and states that it’s working for Zodiac, a crime syndicate that has ties to another Marvel syndicate known as A.I.M (Advanced Idea Mechanics).

Even though the main villain here is Zodiac, Stark comes up against a pawn of theirs who he knows, whom he tries valiantly and desperately to pull back into the light. Along the way, he falls for a Japanese scientist in his employ named, Chika Tanaka, and gains a comrade in arms in the form of Nagato Sakurai, who works for the government, and who pilots his own “suit of armor.” Two reporters, Nanami Ota, whom he hits on and eventually ends up turning to more than once during the series to help him out, and comic relief, Ichiro Masuda, round out Stark’s supporting cast.

When I first watched this on G4 I was not overly impressed by it, and even stopped watching three episodes before it ended, but, now, that I have given it a second chance and viewed it without commercial interruptions and those damn annoying pop-ups channels love to shove into their programs to distract viewers, I can now say this anime interpretation of Marvel’s Iron Man is worthy indeed.

However, it does have its flaws. The biggest issue is that for the first three episodes, the plot is completely about Iron Man battling against the mechanoid Zodiac menace. It’s not until the fourth episode where the plot actually gets interesting, and after that I was able to really get invested in the story.

One of the most interesting things about this series is the animation used for the Iron Man suits and all the mechanoid creations Zodiac flings at Stark. My first thought was: it’s CGI, but they don’t movie like the kind of CGI Marvel used for their 2007 animated movie, THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN. It wasn’t until I was watching one of the extra features that I learned the CGI was augmented by the very talented animators to blend better with the cell animation of the rest of the series. I tell you, it works beautifully. I didn’t like Marvel’s 2007 animated movie for many reasons, one of which was that the CGI looked so wrong inside a traditional, cell animated movie. Had they used this blending technique it might have at least looked better.

Housed on Disc One are the featurettes, ‘The Marvel Anime Universe: Re-Imagining Iron Man (9:45), which covers a little bit of Iron Man’s history, his psychology and how the anime project came about as told by Warren Ellis, Jeph Leob and others; a brief (5:12) interview with the Japanese actor who voiced Tony Stark is conducted in ‘Voicing Tony Stark: Interview With Keiji Fujiwara.’

Disc Two has ‘21st Century Hero: The Technology Of Iron Man’ (7:29), which is pretty much what it sounds like, a dissection of Iron Man’s weaponry and suit functions. The most interesting feature in this collection is the (28:51) doc called, ‘Special Cross Talk: Marvel Anime’s Iron Man And Wolverine’ (Japanese with English subtitles), which is similar to the one on the X-Men disc where the Japanese animators and storytellers are interviewed. Like in the X-Men doc, the animators here were also dubious on whether they could create a worthy product for Marvel, but in the end did and were grateful they had the opportunity to work with iconic comic book company.

One the most perplexing thing they mentioned concerned Wolverine, it seems their interpretation of that character is that he’s immortal, and that even if he gets his head chopped off, he still cannot die. Must have been some miscommunication between Marvel and them, or perhaps, that is simply how they see him. And that it may have been their idea to regress Logan down to his late twenties for that series.

Like in the X-MEN collection, the second disc here as the same previews and trailers.
I forgot to mention Logan makes a cameo, in four short scenes, two of which involve him saving Stark from a homicidal race-car driver, and helping him take out Taurus, one of Zodiac’s menaces.

For more Made for TV Reviews, view the rest of our column here. 

Marvel Anime – Iron Man Stills:

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